Living in the Hudson Valley has its food perqs, not the least of which is the availability of an incredible array of farm-fresh produce – unless you reside in an area where such foodstuffs are not sold, that is. It’s hard to imagine this being the case when farmland surrounds us on all sides, but in certain areas of the City of Poughkeepsie, “food deserts” do exist. Let’s face it: In some neighborhoods, fast-food outlets and gas station mini-marts are people’s only options for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
To remedy this situation, the non-profit Dutchess Outreach and its partners – the Poughkeepsie Plenty Food Coalition, the Family Partnership Center, Hudson River Housing, Interfaith Towers, the Poughkeepsie Housing Authority (New Hope Community Center), the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Dutchess County and the Dutchess County Interfaith Council – are set to launch a new initiative: The Poughkeepsie Plenty Fresh Mobile Market will bring nutritious foods to the people. On Thursday, June 11, a big green walk-in trailer set up like the produce section of a supermarket will park at the Family Partnership Center. Starting at noon, a celebratory media tour of the trailer with local officials on hand will kick things off before it opens to the public. And then, it’s time to shop for dinner!
Korey Findley, Mobile Market manager, reports that food will be sourced from local and regional farms and participating retail and wholesale providers, including Fishkill Farms, Hepworth Farms, Winterton Farms, Liberty View Farm, Late Bloomer Farm, Huguenot Street Farm, Brookside Farm, Ronnybrook Farm, Bread Alone, Right from the Hive, Wild Hive Farm, ImmuneSchein, Sprout Creek Farm, Acorn Hill Farm, the Poughkeepsie Farm Project and the Bruderhof Community. Some of the food will also come through the Dutchess Outreach Food Hub, which helps put harvest bounty in the hands of soup kitchens and meal programs (including Dutchess Outreach’s Lunch Box), along with other food pantries and others who help to provide food for people who have too little. “We will stock fresh, local vegetables, fruits and other foods, and sell them at affordable prices,” says Findley, who also manages the Gardiner farmers’ market and has extensive farming experience himself, “everything you’d find at the farmers’ market: maple syrup, bread – everything.”
“According to a Dutchess County Health Department survey, one out of four Poughkeepsie residents reported difficulty accessing healthy food, and more than half of those people said such food was too expensive,” says Brian Riddell, executive director of Dutchess Outreach. Typical price points at regional farmers’ markets can tend to be a little higher than supermarket pricing. When asked how the program will be able to offer customers affordable prices for fresh foods, Riddell explains that much of the food is donated. The Mobile Market will also take advantage of subsidies and grants from organizations such as the Community Foundation of the Hudson Valley, the New York Healthy Food & Healthy Communities Fund, HealthQuest, Vassar Brothers Medical Center and the United Way for Cornell Cooperative Extension. “And we grow our own, too. This will reduce costs from the middle. We want to make the benefits of eating fresh foods available to everyone.”
Research done by Poughkeepsie Plenty indicates that many householders in the city do not own a vehicle and are restricted to public transportation to get to and from supermarkets, which are often more than a mile from their homes. Furthermore, city buses only allow riders to carry two shopping bags on board, and the cost of a round-trip ride can be as high as $20. “In this context, corner stores are an important food source, where healthy options are often extremely limited,” says Susan Grove, leader of the Poughkeepsie Plenty research team. The Mobile Market will serve this population and revive a stronger sense of community.
The food trailer will move around town from June through October on a regular schedule beginning Tuesday, June 16, when it will make its regular Tuesday afternoon stop at the New Hope Community Center, Smith Street at 104 Hudson Avenue from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. On Thursdays, it will be at Interfaith Towers on Washington Street during the same hours. On Fridays from 12 noon to 4 p.m., the Mobile Market will be at the Family Partnership Center on North Hamilton Street, and on Saturdays at Hudson River Housing on Main Street at Middle Main Pocket Park from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Patrons may pay with cash, Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program checks, WIC or SNAP/EBT benefits.
The program also includes an opportunity for local young people to get involved in their community. In collaboration with Hudson River Housing’s River Haven program, teenagers will learn job skills by working at the Mobile Market. And in collaboration with the Cornell Coop and HealthQuest, professional nutritionists will offer helpful advice on ways to use the produce and talk to shoppers about incorporating new, healthy recipes in their meal-planning.
The Poughkeepsie Plenty Fresh Mobile Market will work in conjunction with the Community Food Hub and Micro-Farm with the overall goal of providing nutritious foodstuffs and farm-to-table educational resources for community members in need. Dutchess Outreach has been dedicated to providing meals, feeding children and AIDS patients, collecting and distributing food-pantry items and generally meeting the emergency needs of individuals for three decades. This new effort fills a gap in services in a way that raises awareness and brings the greater community together. “There is clearly an opportunity to bring affordable, fresh food to Poughkeepsie’s neighborhoods,” says Grove.
Riddell concurs wholeheartedly. “This is a different model than the stationary farmers’ markets we’ve had in the past,” he says. “Although we’re targeting a specific community of people, the Mobile Market will be everybody’s market. And we need people to support it.”
Poughkeepsie Plenty Fresh Mobile Market kickoff, Thursday, June 11, 12 noon, Family Partnership Center, 29 North Hamilton Street, Poughkeepsie; (845) 219-4174, www.dutchessoutreach.org, #PokPlentyMarket